A couple of crime novels to review today and they could not be more different. One is set in 1920s India the other a modern dual-timeline mystery set in the Derbyshire Peak District in the UK.
First up, The Bangalore Detective Club by Harini Nagendra.
As the title implies, this book is set in the city of Bangalore in southern India. It's the 1920s and 19 year old, Kaveri, has moved to the city after marrying Ramu Murthy, a local doctor. It's a bit of a culture shock as all Kaveri ever really wanted was to study Maths and earn a place at college, which women are now allowed to do. She is fortunate though. Ramu likes having an intelligent wife and, for the times, allows her a lot of leeway. They're at a large dinner event one evening when a man is murdered. Kaveri has witnessed quite a lot of coming and going that night and finds herself drawn into the investigation, not at all against her will. There's a large cast of characters in what I suppose is a cozy crime series. Cozy isn't always my thing but I found the depiction of 1920s Bangalore to be absolutely fascinating. The author is Indian and lives there and this 'really' shows as we gets a warts and all description of a very crowded city with a lot of poverty. I liked Kaveri who breaks all the rules about where she can go and what she can do as the wife of a quite well to do doctor. Said husband is a great character too, a man who appreciates his intelligent wife even if she can't cook. The neighbour, Uma Aunty, who aids and abets Kaveri and teaches her to cook in exchange for reading lessons is brilliant too and there's a very rich and varied cast of other well drawn extras. I did not guess the culprit until nearly the end as the whole thing was quite complicated. I liked this a 'lot'. It's book one in a new series and book two is just out I think. I'll definitely be getting it.
Lastly, In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward.
It's 1978 and two eight year old girls are walking to school. A car stops and a woman offers them a lift. Rachel Jones does not want to get into the car but Sophie Jenkins is quite happy to do so, so rather than leave her friend, Rachel gets in too. She is later discovered wandering along the road by a wooded area, Sophie is never seen again. Fast forward thirty years and Rachel is now a genealogist. She goes into shock when the police approach her to tell her that Sophie's mother has committed suicide in a local hotel. The local police are suspicious enough to reopen the case of the missing girl and D.I. Sadler is put in charge along with D.S. Palmer and D.C. Connie Childs. It's thought the 1978 investigation was actually pretty thorough but is it possible something was missed? Some weeks later another body, a murder this time, and there is a connection between the two dead people. Many old wounds and secrets are about to be revealed. This was one of those 'can't leave it alone' kinds of book. Written to make you want to keep reading and reading and I did, devouring it in two sittings. The Derbyshire Peak District in winter setting doesn't do it any harm as I know the area a bit and it's quite stunning there. But as well as that, I do like a family secrets story. Mixed with a police procedural where you don't know any more than the police and it can be a heady mix. You do need to pay attention as there are a lot of characters and keeping track of them all and where they fit in is not straightforward. But it's worth the effort for this well-written book with a lot of intricate layers. Character-wise I found D.I. Sadler a bit remote and unlikeable. Connie Childs, whom the series is named after, is more fleshed out but really the person I liked the most was the grown up Rachel Jones, searching for answers using her genealogist skills, but I don't think she's actually in any more of the novels. There are four books in the series anyway and now Sarah Ward has started a new one The Mallory Dawson Crime Series, the first book of which, The Birthday Girl, sounds excellent. I think this author is well worth keeping an eye on.